With the recent detection of H5N2 avian influenza in a hunter-harvested duck in Montana, USDA Chief Veterinarian Jack Shere is urging poultry producers to be highly vigilant.

The strain of avian influenza detected in Montana is genomically similar to the strain that was prevalent during the 2015 outbreak that was the responsible for the loss of millions of egg laying hens and turkeys in the United States, Shere said in a recent interview with USDA Radio News.

“The fact that this strain is being maintained in the wild bird population – maybe not at a high level – but that it’s out there tells us and tells our poultry producers you better be vigilant, you better be on your biosecurity, you better be on the lookout for this, and you better be watching your birds very carefully for any signs of sickness,” Shere said.

Shere said the virus is very hard to keep out of the population, and in commercial poultry operations, there are usually “point-source” introductions that usually come from wild birds.

Monitoring of wild birds continues

Shere said that the agency is continuing to monitor wild bird populations for avian influenza. In most instances, the testing is done with hunter-harvested birds. Shere said USDA has a blanketed plan that targets states that are high in commercial poultry and egg production.

Testing is also commonly done in states where there has been a “significant die-off or significant event in the wild bird population,” said Shere.